Essentially a feature-length episode of the popular Nickelodeon animated series, this faithful expansion is savvy enough to stay put. Rather than taking nine-year-old Arnold (voice of Spencer Klein) and friends out of their inner-city neighborhood for, say, a vacation in Europe, the movie never loses sight of the fact that their subtly oppressive environment is part of what keeps these motley school kids together. Standing in the shadow of an overpass, the neighborhood is a working-class enclave with mom-and-pop stores, abandoned lots where kids play and a nostalgic, greatest-generation aura; orphaned Arnold and his eccentric grandparents even live in a boarding house, another remnant of a bygone America. With hearth and home looming so large in their lives, it's not surprising that the kids want to fight back when a smoothly rapacious developer, Scheck (Paul Sorvino) forces their neighbors to sell their property so he can put up a mega-mall. But these aren't the days of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show and winning over the bad guy's heart Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett has a more modern worldview than that. Arnold, his best friend Gerald (Jamil Smith) and the others kids mount a Blockapalooza block party to stir grassroots support, but the politically influential Scheck has City Hall and the police on his side and the bulldozers are just 46 hours away. Not much time to save a neighborhood, but enough to spin a comforting children's power fantasy in which the optimistic Arnold and his friends defeat the bad guy through ingenuity, tenacity and really cool spy gadgets supplied by Bridget (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the kind of catsuited international woman of mystery who makes fourth-graders go "hammina hammina." The key to the kid's success is a historical document that proves the neighborhood is on the site of a landmark Revolutionary War battle. Who owns the document? Scheck, naturally, and the way is opened for HQ infiltration and homages to everything from MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and MEN IN BLACK to CASABLANCA and "The Incredible Hulk." A series subplot involving the bullying Helga Pataki (Francesca Marie Smith), who secretly loves Arnold in a semi-stalker kind of way, is brought to a brief culmination. In the film as in the TV show, dysfunctional family dynamics always seem to lurk just beneath the good-natured surface, and are overcome with self-confidence and love. And if you ever tell anyone I said that, football head, I'll clobber you!
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: PG
- Review: Essentially a feature-length episode of the popular Nickelodeon animated series, this faithful expansion is savvy enough to stay put. Rather than taking nine-year-old Arnold (voice of Spencer Klein) and friends out of their inner-city neighborhood for, say… (more)